China's overall box office reached $617.13m (RMB4.22bn) in 2008, a 26.7% increase on the previous year, according to figures from the Film Bureau under the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

The figures mark the sixth year in a row that box office has grown at a rate of more than 20%.

Local productions and official co-productions grossed a combined $375.26m (RMB2.56bn), an increase of 42% over 2007, and accounted for a 61% share of the total market.

Foreign films, on the other hand, grossed a combined $241.87m (RMB1.65bn), which is an 8% increase on last year's figures. Their 39% share of the total market is the lowest level for the past three years.

According to Screen International's box office research, a total of 12 films grossed more than RMB100m in 2008, compared to seven in 2007. Among these, seven were local productions or co-productions and five were foreign films.

John Woo's war epic Red Cliff was the top-grossing film in 2008 with $45.68m (RMB312m), followed by Gordan Chan's Painted Skin with around $33.67m (RMB230m). Two year-end releases which are still playing - Chen Kaige's Forever Enthralled and Feng Xiaogang's If You Are The One - also cracked the top ten.

Paramount's Kungfu Panda was the best-selling foreign film in China in 2008, grossing $26.43m (RMB180.5m), for fifth position in the chart.

In terms of production volume, 400 local films were produced in 2008, according to SARFT, which is down two films from the total in 2007.

In the exhibition sector, 118 new cinemas with 570 screens opened last year, bringing China's total to 1,545 cinemas with 4,097 screens as of December 2008.

In terms of digital cinema development, there was an increase of some 500 digital screens in 2008 bringing the total to 800. According to Gao Jun of Beijing-based cinema circuit New Film Association, the increase in cinemas screens is one of the major reasons for the increase in box office.

China Top Ten Box Office 2008

1. Red Cliff - $45.68m (RMB312m)

2. Painted Skin - $33.67m (RMB230m)

3. CJ7 - $29.58m (RMB202m)

4. The Forbidden Kingdom - $27.23m (RMB186m)

5. Kungfu Panda - $26.43m (RMB180.5m)

6. If You Are the One - $24.89m (RMB170m)*

7. Quantum Of Solace - $20.79m (RMB142m)

8. Kungfu Dunk - $16.54m (RMB113m)

9. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - $16.10m (RMB110m)

10. Forever Enthralled - $15.7m (RMB107.27m)*

*As of Dec 31, 2008 - still on release

Source: Screen International box office research